Research and campaign grants in 2020

These grants are for research and campaign activities that are linked to APC’s strategic advocacy areas. They can be used for research and advocacy around internet access and rights, as well as activities that build civil society capacity to participate in internet governance. These grants support local campaigns that contribute to members’ advocacy work and are also meant to enable members to participate in APC-wide campaigns.

List of projects implemented in 2020:

Summaries of selected research and campaign grants (2020)
Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) - Mapping and sharing of COVID-19 resources in Kenya

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way the world operates. Millions of people have lost their livelihoods and economies have come down tumbling. The development sector has not been spared the downtrend, with many donors shifting their priorities. Several prevention and mitigation measures have been adopted to combat the spread of COVID-19, with most health bodies insisting on social distancing among others. This approach has meant working from home using the power of the internet to connect to people and business. To make this viable, a couple of online resources have been developed but these are not yet known to many actors such as NGOs to enable them to forge a common approach. This research aims at supporting the fight against COVID-19 by development actors by linking them to shared online resources and knowledge. The results will be used to  a) inform our current and potential efforts, b) influence funders and decision makers, and c) connect and promote solutions by different actors.

Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) - Feminist Internet School online, responding to community management issues relating to COVID-19

We propose to hold the second Bauchi Feminist Internet School (BaFIS) online. The objective of the BaFIS is to produce digital inclusion champions who will join other champions for bridging the gender digital divide in the country. The school will run over 10 days with 25 participants. The majority of the participants would be women and girls (70%). The content of the training will aim to foster a deeper understanding and reflection on the Feminist Principles of the Internet and the African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms, as well as greater understanding of digital exclusion and how to engender digital inclusion of marginalised groups, through digital rights advocacy strategies. A second module will deal with preventive measures against COVID-19, organising and managing community responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, and how trained participants can become catalysts of linking community responses to higher levels of response to COVID-19 in the country. These trainees will also be expected to demonstrate familiarity with the issues by organising a "step down" training to ensure that they have reached out to at least 10 other people. They can use any tools of their choice, such as WhatsApp. With the training they receive, they will also help in addressing community issues relating to COVID-19 in their respective communities.

Association of Technology, Education, Development, Research and Communication (TEDIC) - Antivirus (reload) to mitigate stress in times of COVID-19

During the emergence of COVID-19, TEDIC created the Antivirus series, which shares analysis and resources on the implementation of technology such as apps, platforms, drones and use of personal data, as well as identity hacking on social networks, gender violence on the internet, work at home and digital detox, among others. The series includes webinars, Instagram talks, articles and communication pieces. See more: https://www.tedic.org/en/blog/

TEDIC wants to scale up this Antivirus series with new content focused on digital and emotional security through webinars, flyers and an Antivirus Party.

Asociación Civil AlterMundi - Community networks in vulnerable areas of Argentina: Their influence on public policies and in the reduction of the digital divide

The "Community networks in rural areas of Argentina: Their influence on public policies and in the reduction of the digital divide" campaign is an advocacy action to demonstrate the community networks model as an effective connectivity response for rural communities in Argentina, especially in emergency contexts such as the current COVID-19 pandemic. During the months prior to the pandemic’s arrival in Argentina, the organisations involved in the Argentine Summit of Community Networks (CARC), which AlterMundi is part of, were working in a coordinated and organised manner. One of our main objectives is to ensure that the state takes the promotion and support of community internet networks as a public policy. Although many advances have been made in this regard, the pandemic has struck a blow in all public entities. The state implements digital channels to respond to emergencies without due attention to homes and entire regions with no or poor connectivity. Specific actions in relation to connectivity revolve around solutions that, in our experience, are not effective in solving connectivity problems in rural areas. Historically, they seek to solve problems that occur in rural areas by reproducing urban logics, both technological and commercial.

Changing the direction of these logics seems to us strategic and vital to build sustainable connectivity solutions in digitally excluded rural and peri-urban areas. For this reason, this campaign places emphasis on promoting the initial stages of community network deployments in communities that already have network projects started and need to cover the costs of the equipment to start the deployment stage. With the result of these community projects, we will have living proof to demonstrate to the state that, even/especially in this complex emergency situation, community networks are an inclusive, affordable and sovereign response to bring the benefits of telecommunications to rural areas.

Media Matters for Democracy (MMfD) - Understanding the Digital Gender Divide in Pakistan

Pakistan’s internet recorded an increase of 15% to 20% in usage during the COVID-19 lockdown in the country. The internet is used as the main medium by the government to reach out to citizens in Pakistan; however, almost 142 million people remain unconnected, and digital inequalities continue to be on display in the country. The digital gender divide continues to widen in Pakistan, with women and gender and sexual minorities having limited or no access to the internet given the cultural, economic, geographic or household restrictions that are enforced through multiple means.

Through our campaign Hamain Kaisa Internet Chahiye (Urdu for “What kind of internet do we want”) that focused on involving regular internet users in the discourse of internet-related policy making, we recognised growing challenges in access. While a specific number cannot be put on how wide this gap is due to the lack of literature and interest in a nationwide gender-based survey on connectivity, on-ground anecdotes and experiences suggest that these individuals remain some of the most affected groups. This divide, whereby it portrays societal imbalance rooted in patriarchal norms, has further highlighted gendered discrimination during the health care emergency when the internet is not only proving to be a primary source of essential information, but also the only way for entertainment, work, studies, seeking a sense of community and communication. Keeping the already marginalised individuals away from accessing this global platform propagates the gender-based violence that has been thriving in patriarchal societies like Pakistan since forever. This project aims to examine the levels at which the digital gender divide affects women and gender minorities during a pandemic in Pakistan, and further connect it with MMfD’s larger advocacy to bridge this gap and engage in policy interventions to make the internet accessible, safe and inclusive for everyone.

Voices for Interactive Choice and Empowerment (VOICE) - COVID-19 Pandemic and Communications Crisis in Bangladesh: A Rapid Research and Campaign Project

False and misleading information is pervasive during COVID-19. This includes disinformation about cures for the coronavirus, false reports, fabricated references, and widespread videos by Islamists providing false information, urging people not to follow any of the rules of the government and WHO in Bangladesh citing that there’s nothing to do about the virus as it is given by Allah (God) as a symbol of punishment. There are too many videos, false rumours and posts in social media about the cure, prevention and treatment of coronavirus, and this false news and disinformation create huge panic among people and have a negative impact on both physical and mental health. Also, the government’s messages to people are unclear, vague and difficult for people to translate into action, which is also a communication problem. Developing appropriate messages for effective communications is important. There is a need for resilient, independent and accurate media and information from a trusted source that can save lives, making people aware in the local dialect of the communities. Therefore, addressing COVID-19 mis/disinformation as a communication-related crisis with a brief study can help to identify the problems and thus prepare proper communications messages for the communities to make them aware. The study will mainly deal with the crisis of communications (e.g. health misinformation ecosystem) on social media by categorising and detecting content, and conduct effective campaigns by developing appropriate and communicable messages to promote positive online/offline campaigns and to limit the reach of misinformation. Data collection will be carried out through telephone interviews, "netnography" (gathering information from the digital space), online focus group discussions and consultations, and research questionnaires.

May First Movement Technology - Changing the Culture: A new approach to movement communications

The social justice and progressive movements in the United States and Mexico (where May First is organised) are comprised of mainly “single issue” organisations who depend on face-to-face national conferences and meetings to develop broader strategies that bridge the divide between these issues silos. Face-to-face conferencing is the sustaining activity of our movements for change. During the virus shutdown, that is impossible. However, we believe that in the long term, such expensive national conferences are a drain on resources and actually exclude many community-based organisations that don’t have that budget. Those organisations are sure to become more prominent as our movements grow, which they unquestionably will given the deteriorating political situation. We have alternatives to face-to-face meetings which can be used creatively with training and, in that use, our movements can also be developing a profile of need for technologists to meet. That process, which is the kind of work our organisation specialises in, is what this project is all about.

Unwanted Witness Uganda - Amplifying citizen voices to collectively reclaim their dignity and rights in an era of digital ID in Uganda

Establishing every person’s legal identity, including through birth registration, by the year 2030 is an aim of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16.9. A verifiable identity is essential for applying for benefits, establishing entitlement, receiving benefits, and appealing against denial. In Uganda, the government developed and iterated on a large scale multiple campaigns to register all Ugandans with a National Identification Number (NIN), since 2014, and intensified these efforts after the enactment of the Registration of Persons Act, 2015. Today, identity has become a password that unlocks and grants Ugandans access to their rights. With financial support from APC, Unwanted Witness published a report last year, titled “Uganda’s Digital ID system: A cocktail of discrimination”, which highlights that while the ID system is meant to empower citizens and enhance government transparency, the system was found to be excluding, as it makes it mandatory for all citizens to present an ID before accessing both public and private services as well as risking data privacy amidst an insufficient regulatory framework. Findings of our report were presented before the speaker of Uganda’s Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, who subsequently raised the matter to the plenary for debate. Several members of parliament across all political divides collaborated on our report findings, tasking the minister for internal affairs to present a ministerial statement on the same.

In his statement to Parliament, Minister Obiga Kania acknowledged the numerous challenges faced by Uganda’s ID system, currently excluding over 17 million Ugandans. At the same time, some of Uganda’s development partners, supporting social protection programmes, particularly for older people, have also included a valid national ID among the key requirement for social protection acquisition, contrary to the country’s Vision 2040, which seeks to foster inclusive development. It is against this background that Unwanted Witness Uganda seeks to consolidate previous efforts by undertaking concerted campaigning for a dignified ID system that respects privacy, inclusion, user value, user control and security. Unwanted Witness intends to rally citizens’ voices to push back the illegal use of the ID by authorities to curtail citizens’ enjoyment of basic human rights.

Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (EMPOWER) - Campaign to mobilise for the reform of discriminatory citizenship laws and policies through online democratic discussions and a multi-stakeholder engagement

This project hopes to showcase the impact of discriminatory citizenship laws and policies on Malaysians in transnational marriages and their non-citizen spouses and children during the COVID-19 pandemic. Annually, there are 100,000 Malaysians marrying non-citizens, and this campaign intends to showcase the failure of the Malaysian government in respecting and protecting the rights of transnational families of Malaysians, specifically how women in these marriages are disproportionately affected. Through the activities proposed, this campaign intends to open up safe spaces and platforms for democratic discussions online such that affected persons have avenues to discuss the rights violations they experience pertaining to immigration, especially during unprecedented times. The project also emphasises holding the Malaysian government accountable in promoting and protecting the human rights of Malaysians and their transnational families through direct engagement between affected persons and policy makers to exert pressure on the need to adopt special measures and reform of policies/laws with the help of evidence-based resources and lived realities of affected persons.

Korean Progressive Network Jinbonet - Response to COVID-19 and privacy in South Korea

South Korea’s epidemic prevention system relies on accurate epidemiological investigations and active diagnosis of contacts. The Korean government introduced a serious monitoring system in the epidemiological survey by utilising mobile phone location data, usage records of credit cards and transportation cards, and CCTV footage to track the movement of confirmed patients. In addition, the so-called base station investigation method was used to find out who was in a particular location at a certain time. Despite such excessive measures violating the right to privacy, there have not been enough safeguards to protect personal data, such as deletion of personal data after a certain period of time or pseudonymisation of data. Civil society organisations have also expressed concern that the system created in a time of crisis like this is likely to become a daily monitoring system even after the crisis. Therefore, we would like to conduct research to closely identify the problems of the system, compare it to those of other countries, draw up alternative measures to respond to a pandemic properly without violating the fundamental rights of individuals in the name of public health, and carry out a campaign to revise the current legislation.

Open Culture Foundation (OCF) - Raising Taiwanese citizens’ awareness about the risk of private information digitising with international cases

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, people depend on their government's epidemic prevention with private data surveillance measures, and most of them involve digital identification systems. Taiwan is no exception. Taiwanese people have low digital risk conceptions and high dependence on the government, becoming more willing to be monitored by the government since the COVID-19 pandemic. Following the digitised identification trend from European countries such as Estonia, the Taiwanese government implements and promotes the digital ID cards project’s policies by providing unilateral information coming from Europe and the United States, saying nothing about the risks of it. This has caused the Taiwanese to blindly trust the policy and there is low awareness about the risk of using digital ID cards. To awaken Taiwanese citizens’ private and personal information protection awareness, our project will focus on the ongoing digital ID cards in Taiwan to make a series of reports and advocate to the government dealing with the problems of rolling out digital ID cards. This project can not only improve the situation around Taiwanese citizens’ understanding of the potential risk of digital ID cards and digital privacy and call the government’s attention not to abuse citizens’ private information, but also promote the exchange of experiences with digital ID cards with international organisations.

7amleh - The Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media - Israeli violations of Palestinian digital rights in the time of coronavirus 

The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in worldwide changes in daily life, work and health, but has also triggered problematic governmental responses. These responses, given the reporting on the virus, its health impact, number of cases, recoveries, and preventative measures, have gone largely unnoticed or unscrutinised. The Israeli government, under the guise of a response to the coronavirus, is further expanding the already existing surveillance regime, infringing on human rights in general and digital rights in specific. In order to raise awareness and advocate against these violations, 7amleh will publish a report about the expansion of surveillance during the coronavirus and how this impacts and violates Palestinian digital rights. The release of the research will be accompanied by a social media campaign as a first step of advocacy for the Israeli government to abide by international law and human rights standards.

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